Editors' note (March 4, 2014): Roku has announced a new $50 Streaming Stick that includes nearly all of the features of the Roku 1 reviewed here. Look for it to hit stores in April.
Whereas Apple offers just a single model of the Apple TV, Roku offers four varieties of its streaming-media box, from the bare-bones Roku LT to the flagship Roku 3.
Of all the options, the Roku 1 ($60) feels like the odd man out. It's essentially identical to the Roku LT ($50), adding just a single feature: 1080p video output. The difference between 720p and 1080p has always been hard to discern, especially on the smaller, secondary TVs where the Roku 1 and Roku LT make most sense. And even on larger screens, the difference can be tough to discern; flipping between a Roku 1 and a Roku LT, the LT was ever-so-slightly softer, but they both looked like good HD content. Techies may find some comfort in knowing they're getting "true 1080p," but most mainstream buyers can just get the Roku LT, save $10, and never notice the difference.
The other differences are even more minor. The Roku 1 sheds the Roku LT's purple shell, opting for the standard glossy black finish instead. (For some, the less garish finish may be worth the $10 difference alone.) And the Roku 1 is available at traditional retailers, while the LT is only sold at online at outlets like Amazon, and Roku's own online store.